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What Are SEO And SEM, And How Are They Different?

SEO and SEM are terms that you may have come across. If you are unfamiliar with them, they may seem confusing as they both have to be with how your audience can search and find you online. Find out more about what they are, and how SEO and SEM can help your business or medical practice.

The Key Difference Between SEO And SEM

SEO stands for “Search Engine Optimisation”, whereas SEM means “Search Engine Marketing”. SEO focuses on website optimisation to gain organic search traffic. SEM, on the other hand, refers to paid advertising to gain search traffic. 

What Is SEO?

SEO Starter Guide

Google Developer
E3 - Medical SEO Marketing & Healthcare Agency
SEO is important and competitive for the medical industry

The objective of SEO is to rank your desired keywords high in a search engine’s organic results. When you rank high on search results pages, readers are more likely to see your content and click through to your website. SEO involves:

Keyword research – Discover what are the keywords that are relevant and used by people to search for you or your products/services. Popular keywords have higher search volumes. Another key consideration is the “Keyword difficulty”, a measure of how difficult it is to rank top for the chosen keyword. A balance needs to be struck between search volume and keyword difficulty when selecting keywords for content optimisation.

On-page SEO – Create content that is optimised for desired keywords. This means choosing keywords that suit the readers’ search intent, strategically placing the keywords in the content, adding compelling titles, optimising images, and more.

Off-page SEO – Enhance your website’s trust and authority by creating backlinks from other authoritative websites.

Technical SEO – Efforts to make sure that search engines can find, crawl and index the content on your website. The most compelling and optimised content will not be effective if there are technical issues that prevent Google and other search engines from being able to find your site, understand its content, and index it for search results.

What Kind of Content Does Google Value?

  • Your Money Your Life (YMYL) Content: referring to content about Health, Financial Stability and Safety, Wealth or Welfare of Society. The healthcare and medical industry is definitely within the YMYL category.

How Long Does SEO Take?

SEO is a long-term and continuing effort. Depending on the keywords, the competitive landscape, and the age of your website, it may take anything from at least 6 months to a year to start seeing results from SEO efforts (the age of the website itself being a criterion that search engine uses to determine the trustworthiness of the website). SEO is also an ongoing effort, as competing websites are also improving. New and relevant content has to be put up to retain or improve rankings.

How SEO works - PET Scan Cost in Singapore

Example of SEO Search Result. Health365 ranks #1 at The Top of the Page for the keyword “Cost of Pet Scan

What Is SEM?

SEM is advertising where you pay for website clicks from search engines like Google or Bing. Unlike organic search results, paid results are denoted with a mark to indicate that they are paid advertisements. Paid results show up on top of search results pages, above organic results. SEM involves selections of keywords, bid setting to tell search platforms how much you are willing to pay for a click, and crafting of ad texts.

Example of SEM – Paid search result, which is marked clearly as “Sponsored

Keyword research for paid search advertisements similarly discovers what customers are searching for. Instead of keyword difficulty, a factor to consider for SEM is the estimated keyword cost. Highly competitive keywords require a higher average cost per click (CPC). Thus, a balance has also to be struck when choosing keywords for SEM, between the popularity of the keyword and the CPC.

Crafting Of Ads And Ad Quality Score

Ad creation involves crafting the text for each search ad, adding assets like site links and callouts, deciding on where on your website to land the ads, and the keywords to use for your ads. Based on these and other factors, search platforms like Google will assign the ad a Quality Score, which is a measure of how relevant and useful the platform deems your ad to be for the intended audience.

Ads with higher Quality Scores are shown more often and lower the CPC (compared to a lower Quality Score ad)

How long Does SEM Take?

Unlike SEO, SEM takes effect immediately upon publication of the ads (though the platform will require some time – hours to a day, to vet and approve the ads for compliance with their platform guidelines). Once the ads start showing in search results, clicks and traffic may be expected to start.

SEO And SEM, Which To Choose?

Here is a good metaphor:

SEO – Buying your flat, and updating content regularly is like paying the mortgage.

SEM – Advertising with Google is identical to paying rentals to a landlord monthly.

SEO and SEM do not need to be exclusive. Often, they can be complimentary and serve different outcomes. In the long run, SEO may be less costly than SEM, since there is no need to pay search platforms for clicks. They also have the advantage of not being subject to the platform’s advertising guidelines and restrictions (government regulations may still apply). SEO is a good long-term strategy for medical websites as the content is rarely fast-changing, and may face more severe restrictions from ad platforms. The trade-off is that much more time is needed for results to show. This makes SEO less suitable for shorter term campaigns whereby the period of relevancy is insufficient for SEO to show results.

SEM, on the other hand, may be useful to help new websites acquire traffic quickly and gain online visibility. They are also suitable for campaigns of durations too short for SEO to be effective. With sufficient budget, they are also suitable for keywords that are otherwise too difficult to rank for organically.

Contact Us For Your SEO & SEM Search Marketing Requirements

Handling SEO and SEM campaigns may be a daunting task for clients to undertake themselves. This is where E3 can come in. If you are looking for an agency to help plan and execute SEO and SEM campaigns, we welcome you to connect with us.

Alex Yang

Alex is a business development manager of E3, who provides digital marketing solutions and advice for clients in the healthcare and medical industry.